What is the key to organization and productivity? I can tell you that there are no shopping lists involved. There’s not an inventory of tools or supplies to purchase. No containers. No apps.
Do you want the answer to the question? Do you want to know what your Time Management Revolution needs in order to work?
Here’s a hint: you already possess the most critical tool a person needs in order to be successful with time management. It’s your brain!
That’s right, my comrades-in-arms. Your brain is your secret weapon! There’s nothing special to buy! Managing your time comes down to how you train your brain to think.
Now, don’t get me wrong; calendars and apps are tools you can utilize. But the key tool is your brain — because it’s your brain that decides what goes on those calendars and what tasks get added to those apps or lists, whichever you choose to use to track what you need to do.
Your Brain Will Make You or Break You
Your brain is what will make you, and it is also what can break you.
Every decision you make, from the time you roll out of bed in the morning until the time your head hits the pillow in the evening, will affect your personal life and work life.
Your brain makes your decisions.
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Therefore, that gob of gray matter that resides in your skull is your key to failure...or success.
Your brain is in total control of everything you do. It decides how much time you waste and how much time you utilize. It decides whether you’ll procrastinate or jump in and get things done. Your brain determines your reaction and response to every person who communicates with you and every situation in which you’re placed. And if you’ve got too much spinning around up there, you can end up with brain constipation.
It’s important to understand that you can’t be on autopilot. You must be conscious, aware, intentional, present, cognizant — whichever term you prefer to use — regarding your decisions about how you use your time. Your brain will help you to implement your Time Management Revolution.
Capture Your Priorities
What would you do if flames were spreading quickly in your home, and you had just a few minutes to evacuate? My client Carol was once, unfortunately, in that situation. She lived in the Midwest on a quiet street, in a two-story house with a wraparound front porch and white picket fence. The fire in her house started in the middle of the night from an electrical short in the basement, so she and her family had to scramble down the stairs from their bedrooms and get out of the house as soon as possible.
When I asked her what she grabbed as she ran out of the house, she replied, “I realized in that moment that my physical possessions were pretty unimportant. I made sure my family was out, our pets were accounted for, and we had our medications to stay in good health.”
Those frightening moments brought Carol’s priorities into focus. She was reminded that the most important thing in her life was the well-being of her loved ones. That fire devastated the house, and they were forced to rebuild. But this experience changed her perspective on how she spent her days. Having that clarity about her life’s priorities helped her to make better decisions in the future about how she wanted to use her time. She realized that work would always be there, but her family might not.
Make any and all decisions in work and life based on your priorities. Post your priorities in a place where you can view them daily.
Capture Your Personal Priorities
1. Brainstorm: Write down (on paper or digitally) everyone and every goal that’s important to your life.
2. From this list, write down your top three or four personal priorities.
3. View your personal priorities list every day.
4. Make decisions in your personal life and in your work life based on these priorities.
Capture Your Work Priorities
1. Brainstorm: Write down (on paper or digitally) every belief, objective, and concept that’s important to your work.
2. From this list, write down your top three or four work priorities.
3. View your work priorities list every day.
4. Make decisions in your personal life and in your business life based on these priorities.
In order to stay focused on what you’re trying to accomplish in your career, you need to understand what your priorities in life are. We often think we know what they are because we’ve casually thought about them from time to time, but until we set our priorities down on paper (or in the computer) in a place where we can view them on a daily basis, they do not become ingrained in our thoughts. And when they’re not ingrained, we tend to lose sight of the big picture and wind up lost — off our path, in the opposite direction of our mission.
While we all have daily priorities like ensuring that we have enough gas in our vehicle to get to the next meeting, or making sure that we have dinner at some point in the evening, we need to examine the bigger picture.
Who Should Be At The Very Top Of Your Priorities List?
I have multiple clients who, when their careers first started taking off, would work all day long, take a break to have dinner with the family, and then go right back to working on their computers. The time they used to spend in togetherness with their families in the evenings had been replaced by quality time with the computer. And that put a bit of strain on their relationships. They had lost sight of two of their priorities: their spouse and children. The decisions they were making at the time were not supporting their relationships with their families. That needed to change.
Many of my clients struggle with guilt. They’d wanted to attend all their kids’ games, but they began missing many of them because their schedules became so hectic. In the back of their minds, they knew they wanted to be on the sidelines to root for their children, but they did not have this priority listed in a place where they could view it when it came time to plan their calendars. “Attending my kids’ games” was one of the first items they listed when we put together their priorities list.
By the way, who should be at the very top of your priorities list? That’s right — you! What’s this, you ask? Why you? Well, when it comes down to it, it really is all about you.
Let’s use an analogy. It’s one I’m sure you’ve heard used many times, but I’m going to use it again here because it’s so accurate. If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, then you know the drill that the flight attendants go through during their preflight safety checklist. Frequent fliers are still talking on their phones or flipping through magazines and usually ignore the verbal safety instructions. During the presentation, this line is uttered:
“In the event that cabin pressure changes and oxygen masks are needed, please adjust yours first before helping others around you.”
Mmm. So true. How can we help others if we can’t breathe ourselves?
So, it’s time to put on our own oxygen masks.
The Clarity To Make Better Decisions
Knowing what our top three or four priorities are in our lives gives us the clarity to make better decisions about how we use our time each day. No need to wait for a fire or near-death experience to force you to reevaluate your life!
When we move from having thoughts float around between the conscious and subconscious parts of our brains, to having those thoughts reside fully in the conscious part, we become more aware and focused. That’s what happens when we write down our goals and view them daily. They’re no longer random thoughts that pop in and out of our minds. The wiring in our brains that helped us to capture these ideas helps us to turn those random thoughts into focused goals.
As you mull over the questions I’ll ask in the following paragraphs, don’t focus yet on when these things will happen. Instead, focus on what it is that needs to happen.
Whom do you want to keep happy in your life? Your significant other? Your kids? Who is important to you? They will be your people priorities. Whatever future decisions you’ll need to make will be based on whether the action you take will support the relationship you want to have with your people priorities.
What activities will support the relationships you want to have with your people priorities? Is participating in a religious organization a priority? Is travel a priority? What activities will bring you peace? What activities will support your own personal health and well-being? Whatever future decisions you’ll need to make will be based on whether the action you take will support your activity priorities.
Is your career a priority? What is your company’s mission? What business goals are you trying to accomplish? What activities will bring you income or revenue? If you work for a company, which tasks get you the highest rankings on your annual evaluations? Whatever future decisions you’ll need to make will be based on whether the action you take will support your work priorities.
You now have a clear idea of your mission in life. This will allow you to make better decisions about how you use your time. The next time your brain tries to drag you away from the present and you have to decide whether to follow that tangent, or the next time someone asks you to do something, make a decision based on the priorities that you’ve just written down.
Will doing xyz task help you to achieve a priority on your list?
If the answer is yes, get it done.
©2016 by Helene Segura. Used with permission of
New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
About the Author
Helene Segura, MAEd, CPO, has spoken to thousands of go-getters, teaching them to manage stress by regaining control of their chaotic work and personal lives. She has coached hundreds of clients to improve their personal productivity and performance by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits. Helene has been featured as an organizational expert in more than 100 media appearances. Visit her website at www.HeleneSegura.com